Nigeria turned 50 on the 1st October, yes, the big one! The talk was almost always about ‘the assessment’ so far, as though we were at the end of term and time to take your report card to ‘Papa’ and ‘Mama’. Most were convinced the report card had only one word to sum up the Nations score: fail!
I used to write, produce and direct plays while in Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo Univarsity); anybody who has ventured into this would know it is no easy task, but for all the work that goes into stage production, the hardest part for me was not the directing, producing or acting, it was writing. Dreaming of unseen worlds and using the age old tricks of the bards to fashion into existence, tales that influence, entertain and hopefully, delight an audience, that was the real joy. I cannot describe the feeling I get when an audience responds to the play I dreamt up and put on paper. The correlation between the art of a writer and life is really intriguing. Almost every major motivational speaker I’ve listened to say you have to see (think) of success before you achieve it, even the good book proclaims “as a man thinks… …so is he”. What has this got to do with Nigeria’s report card? Indulge me a little more: every Nigerian seems to know what the problems are but very few are convincing about the solution. One thing is without ambiguity, if all we talk about are the problems, that’s all we will continue to get, more of the same. Just as the writer dreams up worlds that eventually get presented in a theatre so we can begin to dream up and speak a great nation into existence.
For too long we have listened to ourselves say more than our fair share of the ills and we have nodded in unison to the reconfirmation of it, akin to the soothsayer whose gift is acknowledged by the calamity that befalls him as he had prophesied it. Will just the simple act of dreaming greatness produce it in Nigeria? I don’t think so, but not to dream is not to expect, and not to expect is to, at most, relive what we already have or worse, regress. We have to yet hope and dream as in the words of the Martin Luther King jr:
Every man lives in two realms, the internal and the external. The internal is that realm of spiritual ends expressed in art, literature, morals, and religion. The external is that complex of devices, techniques, mechanisms, and instrumentalities by means of which we live. Our problem today is that we have allowed the internal to become lost in the external. We have allowed the means by which we live to outdistance the ends for which we live.*
We can see a future that will eventually be, if we only look within ourselves with the eyes of hope to see a future performed on the stage of life, for the whole world to see.
*An excerpt from Dr Kings Nobel lecture in acceptance of the 1964 Nobel Peace Price. The full lecture can be read online, please click here.